Elements of Green Building – "Steel Framing"

What is Steel Framing? –

Imagine the wood framing of a traditionally built home, but where there are 2x4s, 2x6s, etc., there are steel studs. The studs themselves start out as large steel sheets. These sheets are passed through a series or rollers, none of which use heat, to bend the steel to make more useful shapes for buildings, like the flanges, web, and lips of a stud or C-shape. Steel studs come in various shapes and sizes, much like those that builders are accustomed to seeing in dimensional lumber, including 2×4, 2×6, 2×8, 2×10, etc. The lengths are custom cut in the steel plant. And, since there is no heat used to shape the steel, no integrity or strength is lost. The shape makes the studs stronger than the original steel sheet. The steel studs can either be sold as is or placed into configurations to be sold as wall panels.

Applications –

Since steel is so strong, durable, versatile, and affordable, it can be used as framing for a great variety of situations, from superstructures like skyscrapers, bridges, and high-rises to lower-scale building projects like commercial shopping centers and residential homes. Since steel’s strength-to-weight ratio is so high, it is ideal for situations that require long spans. For example, steel opens up possibilities for wide, open living spaces in residences.

Advantages –

* Steel framing’s higher strength-to-weight ratio gives designers and engineers more options to use less framing material, allowing longer spans and wider on-center spacing schedules. In other words, fewer studs need to be used in the erection of a house or building, and larger open spaces are available in a home or building.

* Steel studs and joists are strong, light-weight, and made from uniform-quality material.

* Galvanized steel is   noncombustible , unsusceptible to rot, and resistant to corrosion. It does not shrink, warp, twist, crack, split, or swell. This means your walls are straight and square for the life of the house, which will be a long life at that. Steel framing contributes to better drywall and exterior appearance, as well as the fit of doors and windows.

* Steel is insect and termite resistant. It is also mold resistant.

* Steel performs well in high wind and seismic areas.

* Steel provides a more reliable supply of framing materials for the building industry. It isn’t affected by the shortages and sharp price increases of the lumber industry.

* Remodeling and additions are no issue with steel framing since, just like wood framing, non-load-bearing walls can be removed.

* It is at least partly made of recycled materials and is 100 percent recyclable after use.

* Since steel is fire retardant, withstands high winds, and is more durable in hurricanes and earthquakes, homeowners may enjoy lower insurance premiums.

Disadvantages –

“Thermal bridging” occurs when hot or cold air is drawn to a stud, resulting in heat loss or gain. In cold climates, thermal bridging could result in increased heating costs and in hot climates, heat gain could result in moisture damage. When we build with steel, we use thermal barrier insulating materials to provide exceptional heat and cooling loss protection to steel-built homes.

What makes it “green”?

* Steel is completely recyclable. In fact, steel is North America’s most recycled material. More than 65 million tons of steel scrap is recycled each year. More steel is recycled than paper, aluminum, glass, and plastic combined. As an end result, recycling steel scrap also saves landfill space and natural resources. When the steel framing of a home has outlived its useful life, it can be recycled into new steel.

* An average 2,000 square foot steel framed house can generate as little as a cubic yard of recyclable scrap, diverting material for local landfills. This is partly because steel studs are cut to exact lengths from steel stud machines so there are no wastes at the construction site. The wastes in the steel plant are recycled to make more steel.

* Steel framing contains at least 28 percent recycled steel and is completely recyclable. Using recycled steel takes the pressure off renewable resources. For example, a typical 2,000-square-foot home requires about 40 to 50 trees, about an acre’s worth. With steel, only the equivalent of about six scrapped automobiles is needed.

* When used with thermal barrier materials, there is minimal heating and cooling loss. Steel framing also results in less loss around windows and doors as well as foundation and roofing connections because the steel will not warp and move, ridding concern of gaps and accompanies energy loss created over the life of the house.

* Steel framing means less need for lumber. Today, more than 90 percent of North America’s old-growth forests are already being harvested. This eases the strain on these dwindling forests, saving the wildlife that lives in those forests, as well.

* Steel is non-toxic and allergy free, which means healthier living for occupants.